South Africa: Critics of SA Govt's Proposed Digital Grab Idea Express Deep Concerns

analysis

If, as proposed in a new policy document, the government becomes co-owner of any data generated in SA, what does that mean for privacy? And surely it would discourage foreign investment?

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Government's proposed data policy in which the government will become co-owner of all data generated in SA has come under withering fire from local and foreign legal and digital experts.

SA's Draft National Policy on Data and Cloud, released on 1 April 2021, seeks to put government at the heart of data control, ownership and distribution in SA, proposing a data policy that is massively more state-centric than the global norm.

The policy is ostensibly designed to secure national data and establish rules associated with what has become one of the world's most valuable resources. But the nationalistic and government-centric aspects of the policy proposal are gradually being recognised locally and internationally, with varying degrees of concern.

Yet it is also acknowledged, even by critics of the policy proposal, that aspects of the policy are welcome, particularly proposals about extending provision of government data. In addition, the concerns about data privacy and security are internationally recognised.

But, outside of those...

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